Terrorism is the unlawful and threatening use of violence used against a country, state or the public; fueled by religious and political means. This may be the answer you find yourself giving your teenager after much thought, when they simply ask you as a parent ‘what does the media mean when it talks about the word terrorism?’ For every parent, this topic of conversation has become a real reality in the wake of such terrorism around the world. Instinctually, like animals, we have this compulsive need to protect our young. So much so, that most of our parenthood is learning how to let go of those invisible reins; appreciating the older our children become the more they strive for independence. So, what should we do when we are faced with a strong, compelling urge to push everything out of harm’s way to protect our loved ones and most precious, our children when plagued with repetitive footage in every social media corner? When does receiving important information that keeps us alert become damaging to our mental state?
Unfortunately, I have been asked this question one too many times in the face of the dreadful terrorist acts we have all been witness to over the last several years and now presently. I believe the real answers to this challenge lie in the realization of how much we can realistically control. Meaning, the realistic measures we can make for our family without fearing them into a place of hibernation. Even for someone like myself who has had thousands of hours’ practice talking to families about difficult situations; the fact still remains that this subject is a trying one because emotionally it is so hard for us all to comprehend that such monstrosities are happening time and time again. The truth is though, as tough as these conversations are they need to be had, even if you don’t want to have them. Keeping these lines of communication open and honest with your children keeps you close as a family and helps your children to feel reassured and informed with the facts and advice you share at times like this. Please read below some advice and tips that will help you make this conversation a smoother easier.
- It’s okay that you do not know all the answers as a parent. Like anyone else right now, when tragic events like this happen you are gathering information like everyone else to assess the situation. It is in your assessment that you can truly make important decisions moving forward for your family family’s safety. Let them know you don’t have the answers to some of their questions but that you will look into it so that you can give them more answers to the ongoing questions they are asking.
- Your knee-jerk reaction inside could be one of hysterics, trying desperately to keep yourself grounded. Your composure and how you deliver your information will allow you to articulate with more clarity and that energy conveyed will feel safe to your children. Think of little children, when people are running around manic, they sense the panic and become very fretful. This is not to say that you cannot express the situation at hand is not worrisome or concerning but, this composure shows a sense of stillness and comfort to your children listening.
- Be mindful that your responses and explanations are age appropriate. Ask your children what they have seen and heard before you throw too much information their way remembering small children like toddlers will not necessarily be aware of what is going on around them. So, there is no need to have this conversation, as to part with such information would just make them frightened. However, your 7 or 8-year-old may have heard bits and pieces from school. Finding out what they have heard FIRST is most important as it gives you the chance to dispel any fake news.
- Use your instincts to answer questions and reassure based on the information your children give you; keeping the dialogue open for them to feel comfortable to ask another question. Please keep in mind that your children could be showing you outward or inward emotions. So be sure to comfort and validate their feelings with lots of affection and hugs, letting them know they can ask you questions anytime.
- Monitoring media will be very important as overplay can certainly lead to a lot of emotional regression. Which in turn can create even more stress and anxiety. What we want as parents is to support and keep conversations open to create an understanding, ultimately building more mental resilience.
- Information and attitude should always be kept positive. For example, what has happened is tragic but, the community is coming together and the country is coming together to support one another at such times. Kindness is strength and together we stand.
- Perspective is always key, geographically we need to look at where these attacks are taking place, what impact that has on our daily lives, and even though we may keep away from certain places, there are other daily activities that we will continue to do like work, school, and sleep-overs. This shows our children the sense of realistic measure we take when things happen like this in the world. The older your children are the more they will understand.
- The bottom line is, your kids want to know, ‘what happened, why is it happening, and am I safe?’ We know as adults that we live in a world that is volatile. But, I believe it is every parent’s duty to reassure their children they are safe, because let’s face it if we can’t as their parents who can? http://www.jofrost.com
Copywritten Jo Frost